It is estimated that 1 out of every 4 people in England experience one or more kinds of mental health problems in any given year. And considering the current pandemic, experts have already warned of a rise in cases of anxiety, depression and paranoia. With lock-downs, travel restrictions, and stringent social distancing norms, getting in touch with therapists for old and new patients is not easy.
As such, the health industry is now looking up to a digital medium to help the patients. While digital assistance has been in place for some time now, the current situation has given it a push towards recognition and made it essential.
With a mission to provide high-quality digital mental health interventions that make a real and lasting impact on lives, Wellmind Health launched Be Mindful, a digital course that benefits participants by delivering all the elements of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Individuals join the course, either by self-enrolment or via enrolment by their enterprise or healthcare sponsor.
In conversation with Insights Care, Richard Latham, the CEO shares more about the app and how it can help us.
Kindly brief us about the health app and the journey of your company since its inception.
Be Mindful has been proven clinically effective by published research studies to significantly reduce and maintain low levels of depression, anxiety, and stress for course completer(s).
When we launched Be Mindful back in 2011, the amazing potential of digitally delivered mental health training became quickly apparent. The health outcomes we started to see from the course self-assessments seemed to us as web developers, incredible! At about the same time, we were lucky to be in contact with the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who wanted to find out if MBCT delivered in a digital format was as effective as the talking therapy delivered face-to-face. It turned out from their first research study that it was!
This was the start of our ongoing stream of research work with academic partners about the effectiveness of Be Mindful. This substantial and growing evidence base has informed every decision we have made about developments of Be Mindful. This evidence-based approach was critical in Be Mindful getting listed in 2018 on the NHS health apps library, having passed rigorous NHS quality standards for clinical effectiveness, safety, security, usability, and accessibility. A listing on this health apps library is reserved only for tools deemed clinically safe and secure.
To this day, we have not made any changes or additions to the core MBCT elements of Be Mindful. Instead, our focus has been on improving user engagement and developing the management platform that is used by enterprise and healthcare providers of the course.
How do you stay relevant in this dynamic business environment?
There are thousands of mental health apps being launched each year and we can now say that our industry is established with a market for its products. Like most markets, there are good products and bad ones all making bold claims about their benefits. As the market matures, customers are becoming ever more discerning about what they buy, especially for products that are to do with something as personal and sensitive as mental health.
In my view, there is no quick fix to improving your mental health and we are staying with a focus on those tried and tested psychological therapies that have been proven to deliver long and lasting benefits. We hope to differentiate ourselves from our competitors in this way.
How exactly does your health app benefit the user, in what ways?
The challenge with MBCT is that for it to be effective, it requires someone actually meditating regularly and carrying out mindfulness practices for at least 4 weeks. A digital app is totally relevant for overcoming this challenge, as it enables MBCT to be delivered right into the heart of someone’s daily life.
Our Be Mindful app is proven to effectively do this and deliver all the benefits of this powerful psychological intervention. For example, many British universities have carried out clinical trial studies into the efficacy of Be Mindful as a psychological intervention.
A published randomized control trial study conducted by the University of Surrey shows that completer(s) of our Be Mindful course enjoy average reductions of 63% in depression and 58% in anxiety. These are dramatic improvements to people’s mental health and would be noticeable to friends, family and work colleagues.
Kindly tell us about the challenges you faced to withstand the complexities of your industry. With our Be Mindful and Pathway through Pain apps launching in 2011 we were probably the first UK company to operate in what is today called the health apps industry. It was good to feel we were ahead of the forthcoming game, but there was little commercial demand for health apps, so we had to make progress with poor company revenues.
We were, however, able to make some sales for patient trials with a couple of pioneering NHS pain services, who were looking at web-based alternatives to face-to-face talking therapies. The NHS has been leading the way for many years with the provision of effective psychological support services and we have learnt a lot. As health app competitors started to appear, we realized we were ahead of them in terms of development and research and decided to maintain this advantage by embarking on the very lengthy process of getting clinical trials completed and achieving the necessary healthcare accreditations.
Mental Health apps now make up part of what is a highly complex service by healthcare and enterprise providers, concerning data security, safety and duty of care. For this, we have invested heavily in the development of our platform for our apps and the provision of a web-based course management portal, where providers can monitor course participant progress, with full anonymity and confidentiality, and measure effectiveness with health assessment outcomes reports and behavioural analytics.
Brief us about the current scenario of the mobile health app space.
Healthcare providers are past the stage of curiosity about the effectiveness of mental health apps and now see them as part of the healthcare mix of solutions. With this, they are looking to make use of the apps that are most effective and economical, but also are meeting high standards for accessibility, safety and data security.
It would take at least 2 years to achieve these healthcare standards from launching an app, even if a new entrant to the mental health app space has deep pockets and invests heavily in this process.
Keeping in mind the need for active healthcare today, how is your company ensuring public awareness for it?
Not very well really – marketing and promotion have always been the weakest aspect of the company. We have been too product-focused over the years and it’s hurt us commercially. Coverage like this by Insights Care is very helpful.
We have now received our first investment and are in a growth stage at present, expanding our team and opening a new Boston office in the US. We are increasing our marketing and publicity activities and aim to increase our presence and be reaching a lot more people in need in the very near future.
To date, we have relied on word of mouth and our healthcare accreditations to get our apps noticed by corporates and healthcare providers. Also, a focus on making sure that potential customers searching for relevant health apps can find us on search engines. We are also ensuring that we have a pipeline of clinical studies being conducted and published to raise awareness of Be Mindful.
How do you envisage your company’s growth along with the development of your user base?
Our user base growth will be mainly by selling our apps B2B rather than a focus on promoting our apps directly to individuals.
About the Leader
Richard Latham – CEO & Co Founder is an experienced web producer and entrepreneur, launching one of the UK’s first web design agencies, Bluewave in London in 1995. He co-founded Wellmind Health in Brighton in 2002 with Will Mulder (CTO), with the clear mission to deliver innovative evidencebased digital courses with outstanding health outcomes. As well as directing the growth of the company, Richard acted as the producer and writer for the Be Mindful, Pathway through Pain and Meditainment apps.